Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Simpsons Files: The Crazy Cat Woman

The crazy cat woman was first introduced in the Girly Edition episode of The Simpsons. Shown throwing her "beloved" cats at Lisa, she earned an instant cult following. We eventually learn her name- Eleanor Abernathy and discover that she once was an intelligent doctor who became crazy due to her stressful job. She is subject to periods of lucidity when she takes her medication, though she prefers not to do so. She is also apparently a distant cousin of Otto the bus driver.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rest in Peace, Catherine Coulson

Catherine Coulson, best known as the eccentric Log Lady in Twin Peaks, has passed away at age 71.

Ms. Coulson began her career behind the scenes, working as an assistant to David Lynch. Despite the fact that she was primarily a theater actress, Mr. Lynch convinced her to take a role on Twin Peaks, telling her he had always seen her holding a log. As the eccentric 'Log Lady', Ms. Coulson stole the show, becoming the show's hostess in reruns. A fan favorite, she was a popular guest at fan conventions. Her presence on the upcoming Twin Peaks revival will certainly be missed.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Brad Pitt's Trip to Dallas

Long before his career had really taken off, Brad Pitt made a four episode visit to Dallas, playing a teenaged ranch hand at Southfork Ranch.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

Are You Being Served? Week- BBC Unfair To Salespersons

Are You Being Served? spawned a spinoff movie, an Australian spinoff and an American pilot. Yet the BBC never seemed to fully embrace the show. Every year, renewals seemingly came at the last minute and the main cast would scramble to make time for filming. Eventually, the network would become stricter about scheduling, which resulted in the departure of Trevor Bannister.

Despite the treatment, the cast returned, primarily because of the fans. The cast loved meeting their fans around the world and their fans loved them. Mollie Sugden was living out her childhood dream of making people laugh and promised to always don Mrs. Slocombe's wig as long as she was able to do so and whenever she was asked. The rest of the cast felt similarly.

In retrospect, the BBC probably would have treated the show better had they known it would become a worldwide classic. The show's secret was that its cast was willing to do anything to get a laugh and that made for a show that was universally hilarious.

"Another lady on the phone for Captain Peacock!"

"He's all lip and let's have a look at your knockers!"

"I live in a semi-detached house!"

"Happy birthday to YOU! Happy birthday to YOU! Happy Birthday, dear er-er-er!"

"You know, this sort of thing isn't fair on my pussy. She has a go at the furniture if I'm not there prompt."

"I'm Free!"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Are You Being Served? Week: This is Your Department, Part Three

Leading the Men and Ladies departments at Grace Brothers was Mr. Rumbold, affectionately called "jug ears" behind his back by his very own staff. Mr. Rumbold spent most of his time behind his desk, so he often knew very little about what was happening on the sales floor. Often inserting himself into staff activities, Mr. Rumbold was quick to steal credit for any success. Seeing himself as a sage manager, he often provided advice based on his misunderstanding of many situations.

Nicholas Smith, who played the clueless Mr. Rumbold, was encouraged at an early age to pursue his dream of acting. He successfully earned roles on stage and various non-speaking roles on television. His big break came when he convinced the producers of Doctor Who to make his minor role on the show one season into a major one. This led to other fantasy/Sci-Fi type roles. His biggest role would be Cuthbert Rumbold, the hapless senior manager on AYBS? Mr. Smith continues to act and is the only main Castmember of the show still alive.

Essentially a miserly, dirty old man, Young Mr. Grace loosely ran his store, all the while chatting up his sexy assistants. It was easy to overlook these flaws, however, since he had an innocent look about him. Called "young" solely because he was younger than his brother, Mr. Grace constantly needed assistance from a staff of nurses and assistants who propped him up and escorted him around the store. A fond customer of strip clubs and burlesque shows, he rarely seemed to get any actual work done. Of course, as the owner, he didn't really need to.

A character who was as lecherous as Young Mr. Grace required a special actor. Luckily, Harold Bennett was that man. Mr. Bennett began his career as a clown traveling around the United States in a circus. After returning to England, he taught English at a London college. He served as a courier during World War I and returned to acting after the war ended. Eventually, he gave it all up to work as a draftsman for an Electric company. He returned to acting after his retirement, starring in several sitcoms. It was his role as Young Mr. Grace, however, that would give him his greatest fame. Mr. Bennett passed away in 1981.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Are You Being Served? Week: This is Your Department- Part Two

Mr. Grainger was the head of the gentlemen's department and a natural enemy of Mrs. Slocombe. Having served at Grace Brothers for many years, he is often disappointed at the lack of respect he is shown around the store. Fussy, old fashioned and strict, he often suffers as the butt of Mr. Lucas' jokes. Despite his demeanor, Mr. Grainger is known to surprise us all, like when he admitted to getting a young lady in trouble with the "pudding club." Mr. Lucas was completely shocked.

Mr. Grainger was brought to life by the veteran actor Arthur Brough. Unlike his character at Grace Brothers, Mr. Brough enjoyed working with children and originally sought out a teaching position. When none materialized, he began training to become a lawyer, but found such work dull and uninteresting. He soon found himself acting, setting up his own repertory called The Arthur Brough Players. After serving in the British Navy during World War II, Mr. Brough returned to acting, but sensed that the future was in television. Mr. Brough's turn as Mr. Grainger made him a household name, though the death of his beloved wife convinced him to retire from the show he loved. He passed away not long after in 1978.

If Mrs. Slocombe's cat was the biggest target of double entendres on the show, then truly Mr. Humphries would be the second biggest. A "campy" mother's boy whose sexuality remained a running joke, Mr. Humphries was the best loved of the show's cast, both on and off screen. When a cruel election is held to determine who would get sacked, he was the only person who didn't get a vote against him. As Mr. Rumbold noted, nobody wanted to see the back of Mr. Humphries, a development that Humphries wasn't sure he was comfortable with. Always ready to inject his creativity into any project that might need it, Mr. Humphries was a bright spot in the lackluster Grace Brothers.

It's hard to see anyone else but John Inman playing the role of Mr. Humphries. As camp as his character, Mr. Inman always knew he wanted to be an actor and was encouraged to do so by his parents. During his lean early years, Mr. Inman actually worked in department stores, including Austin Reed, which was jokingly referred to as a business that wanted to hire Mr. Humphries away. Establishing himself in the British tradition of pantomime, he didn't start out in television until a few years before AYBS?. Originally, the BBC rejected the character of Mr. Humphries, not wanting such a "camp" character on the show. The show creators appeared to follow this instruction, but quietly asked John to "camp it up", assuming that it would all work on screen. It did and Mr. Inman became a true legend. He remained busy in live theater and Panto shows in his later years, before passing away in 2007.

Mr. Lucas was meant to be our view into the world of Grace Brothers. At the beginning of the series, he's the new guy who gets to point out the ridiculousness and rigidity of Grace Brothers. Sex-obsessed and somewhat lazy, Mr. Lucas often cracked jokes at his fellow employees' expense. Nobody was mocked more than Mrs. Slocombe, who often objected to his wisecracks. Although his departure is never mentioned on the show, Captain Peacock insinuates that he was fired.

Trevor Bannister brought Mr. Lucas to life. Mr. Bannister, like many of his fellow AYBS? cast members, got his start in live productions. He was already a well-known quantity in Britain when he was cast as the smart-alecky Mr. Lucas, a role that was supposed to be the center of the show. The richness of the cast meant that the show became more of an ensemble production than a starring vehicle for him. Due to the erratic filming schedule, the BBC worked around Trevor's schedule, allowing him to take various acting jobs. For some reason, the BBC became stricter with scheduling after series 7 and refused to cater to Mr. Bannister's outside career. He chose to leave the show. He continued to work right up until he passed away in 2011. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Are You Being Served? Week: This is Your Department- Part One

With the BBC (mostly) onboard with Are You Being Served?, the show began its regular run in the Spring of 1973. Using bawdy humor laced with double entendres, the show sought to poke holes in British propriety. Grace Brothers was depicted as a relic of a bygone Britain that struggled to keep pace with the modern world. The store was filled with lively characters who would give the world countless laughs over the next twelve years.

Mrs. Slocombe was the elder member of the women's counter, divorced and eager to find herself a new man, all while trying to keep her dignity. Sadly, Mrs. Slocombe would be mostly unlucky in love, but her faithful cat Tiddles provided much companionship as did her unseen friend Mrs. Axleby. One of Mrs. Slocombe's signature jokes was her tendency to refer to her cat as a 'pussy' which often created some surprising reactions to her fairly innocuous statements about her cat.

Mrs. Slocombe was brought to life by the hilarious Mollie Sugden, who came by her love of making people laugh rather early in life, at age five. During World War II, Mollie gained work at a munitions factory before attending a dramatic school in London. Prior to starring in Are You Being Served?, Mollie starred in such classic television shows as The Benny Hill Show, Up Pompeii! and Steptoe and Son. Unlike Mrs. Slocombe, Mollie found a lifelong husband in a fellow actor named William Moore. They had twin sons and remained married until his death in 2000. Ms. Sugden passed away in 2009.

The younger member of the women's counter was the feisty Miss Brahms. "Dead sexy" and the object of desire for many of Grace Brothers' gentlemen employees, Miss Brahms sought to leave her "common" background behind and elevate herself out of her lower class upbringing. While she often tried to speak in a more high end manner, her cockney accent would always return in fits of anger or excitement. Miss Brahms navigated the pitfalls of Grace Brothers expertly, swatting away the attentions and hands of the men who tried to become too familiar with her.

Miss Brahms was played by Wendy Richard, whose upbringing was much like that of Miss Brahms, though her parents were a tiny bit wealthier. Her father committed suicide when she was just 11, a situation that scarred her. Her big break came in 1962, when her cockney accent helped her get a number one song on the UK charts- Come Outside, performed with future Myra Breckinridge director Michael Sarne. She also appeared in 1965's Help, though her scenes were cut from the film. Coincidentally, future Are You Being Served? star Alfie Bass would also appear in the film. Wendy's biggest roles outside of AYBS? were on the soap operas The Newcomers and EastEnders. She stayed in touch with Mollie Sugden, becoming the daughter she never had and died in 2009, just four months before Mollie.

Supervising the floor staff was the imperious Captain Peacock. Pompous, stuck up and a self described "lady's man", Peacock brought the store an air of pretentiousness. As a "floorwalker", his only job was to supervise the staff and guide customers to the correct counter. His wandering eye and dubious use of the 'captain' title (We later learn that he was most likely a corporal, not a captain) often brought him down a peg. Despite putting on airs, it often seemed that Captain Peacock was not as financially stable as he let people believe.

Captain Peacock was brought to life by Frank Thornton. Mr. Thornton wanted to act from an early age, but his father, a banker, urged him to get a "proper" job. After two years of attending acting school in the evenings, Mr. Thornton was invited to enroll in the more prestigious daytime classes. At this time, he convinced his father to fully fund his acting classes. After an interval brought about by World War II, Mr. Thornton began his acting career, taking roles in films, televisions and radio. He mainly received comedic roles, often playing the pretentious authority figure who got knocked off his pedestal. He acted steadily both before and after AYBS?, becoming the only Castmember who had been chosen for the American version of the show. (He was rejected by the Screen Actors Guild.) Mr. Thornton passed away in 2013.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Are You Being Served? Week: Beginnings

The beginnings of Are You Being Served? took root in co-creator Jeremy Lloyd's mind when he was working in a British department store named Simpsons of Picadilly. As a real life Mr. Lucas, Jeremy Lloyd didn't last long there, but the experience stayed in his mind for years.

Years later, when asked by the BBC for a new show idea, Mr. Lloyd teamed up with David Croft and related his experience at Simpsons of Picadilly. They crafted a show that would display the ridiculousness of Britain's class society as seen through the eyes of the staff at an old-style department store that had seen better days.

The fictional Grace Brothers would be a relic of a bygone era, run by a relic himself- the misleadingly named Young Mr. Grace. The show would center itself around the Ladies and Gentlemen's departments, who were now forced to share floor space with each other. Led by a clueless middle manager and supervised by a useless floorwalker, the department staff members would stumble from misadventure to misadventure all while serving the customers.

It wouldn't be an easy road, however. The BBC was cool to the idea and barely approved production of the pilot episode. After the pilot was filmed, they rejected it and stuck it on the shelf. The magic of Grace Brothers would never see the light of day. In 1972, however, tragedy struck. The massacre at the Munich Summer Olympics left the BBC with many programming holes to fill after the games were suspended. Are You Being Served? was pulled off the shelf and aired as a comedy special. It was a huge success, inspiring the BBC to order a full series. Grace Brothers was now open for business.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"I'm in my robe and- oh, it's you Ace and Gary! I can trust you guys!"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"This is how immature these great men of American history were. He can't even, like, just like, that should have been two separate letters."

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Garner Files

James Garner was a true badass. Even more so than the characters he played on television. As Jim Rockford, he was the toughest detective of them all, tracking down every suspect and solving every case. Even if he had to take a few punches doing it.

Arguably playing one of the greatest detectives in television history, Mr. Garner was fiercely protective of his show. When he discovered that famed television producer Glen A. Larson was apparently stealing plots from Rockford Files, he flew into a rage, filing a grievance with the Writer's Guild. They provided little assistance, merely censuring Mr. Larson.

James accepted things as they were up until Mr. Larson introduced a new show- Switch, starring Eddie Albert and Robert Wagner. Not only did Mr. Larson still keep stealing plots, this time he commissioned a theme song that sounded suspiciously like the classic Rockford Files theme song. It was too much for James Garner. He confronted Mr. Larson in the Universal Studios parking lot and- badass that he was- decked him. Mr. Larson finally learned his lesson.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bye, Bye Jeffy

Jeff Conaway was always difficult to deal with on the set of Taxi, though with his good looks, the producers were reluctant to get rid of him. The show never had an easy go of it ratings-wise, so eliminating someone the network thought was vital to the show wasn't seriously considered.

However, when Jeff bailed on a shoot at the last minute, the writers had to re-write things in a hurry. According to staff writer Sam Simon, jokes originally written for Jeff's character had to be re-allocated to the other actors. They were so much better than Jeff at acting and saying the lines that the producers were emboldened. Jeff had to go, they insisted. The network finally agreed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!

After The Flintstones became seen as a children's franchise, Hanna Barbera tried yet again to produce a cartoon for adults. Much like The Flintstones borrowed from The Honeymooners, Hanna Barbera would borrow again- this time from All in the Family. Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was syndicated, though it was primarily aired on NBC stations. Starring Tom Bosley in the "Archie Bunker" role as the conservative father, the show lasted three seasons and has become a "lost" bit of animation history.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Moe's Polygraph

Good, 'cause I've got a hot date tonight! BUZZ!
A Date! BUZZ!
 Dinner with friends. BUZZ!
Dinner alone. BUZZ!
 Watching TV alone. BUZZ!
 Alright! I'm just going to sit at home and ogle the ladies in the Victoria's Secret catalog! BUZZ!
 Sears catalog. DING!
Now, would you unhook this already, please?! I don't deserve this kind of shabby treatment! BUZZ!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Harry Morgan BeforeM*A*S*H

Before he played the ethical, caring Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H, Harry Morgan had a dramatically different guest starring role on the show.

Mr. Morgan's appearance as the eccentric, racist General Steele would be the first time M*A*S*H viewers would see him. Show producers were so fond of him, that they asked him to step in as Colonel Potter when Maclean Stevenson left the show, hoping that nobody would remember his first appearance.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"It holds two billion songs. Two billion songs! Billions! With a B!"

Friday, September 11, 2015

TV Guide Ads: The Latest Technology

DuMont wasn't just a failed television network, it also was a failed television manufacturer that stooped to running ads insinuating that Betty Hutton would give you a lap dance if you bought one.

Well not exactly a lap dance, but practically a lap dance...

Motorola used to make televisions. Televisions that would make your kids smarter!

Put down those books, kids and watch some of that 'tele-vision'!

The best was yet to come, however. Imagine how amazing it would be if you owned one of those 'VCRs'? I hear they're as small as a Volkswagen now.

Literally the Cadillac of VCRs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

BANNED by SNL Viewers: Andy Kaufman

While many guest stars have gotten banned from SNL by show producer Lorne Michaels for their various transgressions, one guest was banned by the audience themselves- Andy Kaufman.

While Andy's sense of humor was not everyone's cup of tea, he had always been a source of irreverent humor for the show. In 1983, having used then new 1-900 numbers to decide the fate of a lobster and to choose a host for the show, Dick Ebersole, decided to let the audience decide whether Andy should be banned forever from the show or not. Viewers could call one number to vote yes and one to vote no. The show's actors and actresses were obviously trying to sway the audience to keep Andy and not ban him. The audience had different plans and he became the first and only person banned from the show by the viewers themselves. Was it another Andy Kaufman con job? Possibly, but he never appeared on the show again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mr. Rogers Theme Park

Everyone remembers the kindly Mister Rogers and his imaginative television show.

Not everyone knows, however, that there was once a Mister Rogers theme park ride. Located at the Idlewild theme park in Pennsylvania, the attraction was a trolley ride through the "Land of Make Believe".

Sure, it sounds like a fun attraction, until you see the life size puppet animatronics that didn't quite look as good as they might have in the mind of the designers.

Even creepier was the Lady Elaine Fairchild animatronic. Sweet dreams, kids!

The ride was closed after a 25 year run and replaced with a new attraction based on Mister Rogers' Daniel the Tiger character.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rest in Peace, Martin Milner

Martin Milner, star of the classic television series Route 66 and Adam-12 has passed away at age 83.

Mr. Milner started his career in the 1950's, beginning with bit parts on shows like The Lone Ranger and Dragnet. He made friends with Dragnet's Jack Webb, who found parts for him. It wasn't until 1960 that he would get his big break- Route 66. The classic road trip drama made him a household name and led to movie roles in films, the highest profile of which was Valley of the Dolls. He would rejoin his mentor Jack Webb on his second classic show, the police drama Adam-12, which was produced by Mr. Webb. His role as a tough but honest cop would cement his place in television history.

Over the years, Martin would appear in guest stints on various shows. He concluded his career with a stint on Diagnosis Murder in 1997.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

TV Quote Weekends

"I'm beginning to think this alumni party was just a ruse to get our money!"

Friday, September 4, 2015

It's Neurotology...

"We, we are the future
We’re like a rocket into the sea
We used to be starfish
Enslaved by the seagulls
But now we are free"

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Learning Channel: No Longer Educational

Unbelievably, the channel currently known as TLC was once dedicated to actual learning. Started as a free service in 1970 by NASA and the Department of Education, the channel featured educational programming and scientific documentaries. In 1980, the channel was privatized, but it still sought to present intriguing, educational programming.

During the 1980's and 90's, politicians who attacked PBS pointed to The Learning Channel as an example of private industry taking care of educational programming. Right around the late 1990's the network began referring to itself as TLC and began its eventual slide. At first, its reality programming had a bit of education attached to it. Soon all pretenses of "learning" were thrown out the window. Once held up as a model of privatization taking care of educational television efficiently, it soon became a cautionary lesson. Imagine if PBS had been abolished and this was the only "educational" programming available?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fake Facts About Abe Vigoda

* Abe Vigoda is not older than Moses, but they did go to high school together.

* Abe Vigoda can only estimate his age due to his being born before modern calendars were invented.

* When Abe Vigoda was born, New York was still called "New Amsterdam" and the invention of trains was a distant dream.

* Abe Vigoda was there when Apples were invented. (The fruit, not the computers)

* Abe Vigoda's first role was broadcast on CBS- The CaveWall Broadcast Network.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Temporary Layoffs is One!

We made our internet debut just one year ago! It's party time!

ARRESTED: Hamilton Burger

Throughout the long run of the classic television drama Perry Mason, viewers loved to hate Los Angeles District Attorney Hamilton Burger, who relished fighting Perry Mason in court. Despite his overwhelming losses against Mr. Mason, DA Burger always smarmily insisted that *this* time things would be different and he would be victorious. Sadly for Hamilton, that rarely proved true.

But there was one case that struck home for the actor who portrayed the hard charging DA. In 1960, William Talman, who played the uptight Hamilton Burger was arrested for attending a marijuana smoking party at a friend's house. Even more salaciously, some of the gentlemen and ladies at the party were naked. The scandal was too much for CBS, which promptly fired the actor for violating his morals clause. After a show producer voiced his support and viewers launched a letter writing campaign, CBS relented and brought the actor back. Sadly the scandal likely cost him his career and he quietly retired after the show left the airwaves.